This week marks the first birthday of Opsh, the one-stop digital destination for savvy shoppers with bucket-loads of personality (and we say week, not day because birthdays should be a seven day celebration, right?). Leading the pack as bonafide #GirlBoss(es) in their fields, the Irish McGinns haven’t just happened upon fashion tech by a happy accident. They previously spearheaded Prowlster, which was originally intended as a social-media network for clothes and was then acquired by creative agency Sweatshop. Before that, they were popular fashion bloggers with What Will I Wear Today, one of the first Irish blogs to make serious inroads into monetising their content.
Aside from being one of our favourite sites to visit online, Opsh.com allows you to shop across entire ranges from all your favourite well-known high-street brands including Reiss, House of Fraser, Urban Outfitters and All Saints as well as incredible like-minded Irish start ups like beauty mavens Cloud10. We’re proud to call them friends in the field, and here we rub shoulders with them not only to find out more about start-up life but in the hope that their #GirlBoss success and passion might rub off on us too.
Ahead of their first year of trading they have already expanded into the UK with the likes of Glamour and Harpers Bazaar sitting up and taking notice. If you haven’t familiarised yourself with Opsh yet, you’ve got some homework to do.
What’s the most unglamorous part of start-up life?
Honestly? We thought a fashion business was about killer heels and sharp suits. It’s actually about whatever you find on the floor, trainers and dry shampoo. We don’t get free clothes; we don’t get free make-up. And we don’t have to time breathe sometimes, never mind colour-coordinate. We’re far too busy trying to take over the world.
What’s the most common misconception when it comes to a start-up?
There is a well-documented “origin story” about Opsh — a set of sisters taking their blogging background through to a disruptive e-commerce business, navigating the male-dominated world of tech and the treacherous investment route while throwing fabulous parties and creating super-fun branding. The day-to-day reality is quite different. It’s a lot of long days, pressure, decision-making and to-do lists – washed down with a gallon of tea every day.
What kind of people does it take to see it through those first difficult years?
Hard-working, ass-kicking #GirlBoss types of the highest order. Working with family means we are all working towards the same vision, sharing the same values and goals and are all equally responsible for running a company. That is a great equaliser. People are fascinated by how we manage it.
That said, healthy confrontation is necessary and so is having a team of people around you that are resolutely not family. Being passionate about what you’re doing makes everything a lot easier.
What’s the best thing about your start-up?
We’re building something totally new to the marketplace – but women are joining us in droves. There’s a real recognition from women when we explain the concept – it’s a site they’ve always wanted, they just didn’t know it yet. And we get a great boost from that.
Apart from the product, the best thing about Opsh is our team – a bunch of dedicated, hard-working heroes who make it a joy to come into work every day.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting Opsh?
Probably the importance of focus – and good delegation. In a start-up, there is a deadline every minute of every hour of every day. Everything – everything – is urgent. So it’s incredibly important to step back, take stock and only get involved in debates when absolutely necessary. Until they perfect cloning technology, you’ll never be able to do it yourself – so make sure you hire people who can. And if possible, hire people better than you who can get the job done better and faster.
What three key pieces of advice do you have for anyone dancing around the idea of running with their own idea?
Do less with more focus. Build a good team and surround yourself with people who know more than you. And – our favourite saying – it’s better to seek forgiveness after than ask permission first. You never know what you’re capable of until you try.
What motivates you/ what makes it all worthwhile?
Despite all the sacrifices – seeing your friends once a month if you’re lucky, working every hour God sends and eating a woeful selection of fast foods because you don’t have time for meal prep; despite all of it, Opsh has built an incredible team, has an incredible vision and has succeeded against incredible odds. That’s what drives us through the tough times.
Where do you see Opsh on its next birthday?
We’ve just launched in the UK so this time next year, we’ll be looking to expand into even more new markets – every day we get emails from customers asking for Opsh to open in America, Australia, everywhere really! So maybe this time next year we’ll be opening our New York, Sydney and Tokyo offices – all hot-pink of course!
Tell us the pros and cons of working so closely with family.
Best parts – undertaking a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the people you are closest to in the world. Having a rare mutual support when braving both business and personal adventures. The worst part of working together is seeing each other so much that you forget to actually schedule in actual social time rather than work time!
Our family have always been extremely supportive of what we want to do, but they were also very clear that if we felt that working together so intensely would compromise our relationship as sisters, it was not worth doing. Which is why we spent so much time at the beginning of all this, concentrating on making sure we knew what we were getting ourselves into, and how we would deal with this both personally and professionally. It’s because of this we haven’t let it affect our relationships with each other.
People’s immediate reaction when you say you work with your family is usually one of surprise – asking do we fight all the time, saying ‘I couldn’t do that with my sibling.’ But most of the household names we know in business started by families working together – from Topshop to Adidas to River Island and Marks and Spencer’s
What’s life like at Opsh HQ?
It’s a whirlwind of meetings, strategy, pitches, applications & white-boarding. And an ungodly amount of tea every day! Because we are young, there is huge scope for just taking ideas and running with them, so we have a lot of brainstorming sessions. We’re growing all the time, and though we moved to new offices in May, we’re almost filled with the place already with some stunning new hires. We work hard, but we do some fun too – from office takeaway nights to weekly yoga sessions in the main room.
Are there any other E-commerce sites that Opsh take inspiration from? What kind of gap did you see in the market?
We’re avid online shoppers, so we built the site because we knew it was a problem we were having ourselves – we couldn’t shop quickly and easily across our favourite High St stores. Opsh solves that problem, so in that sense it’s totally unique, but we did take inspiration from some real heroes of the start-up fash/tech scene – ‘unicorns’ like Farfetch, Glossier, Refinery29. We love how sites like these are so focused on quality, and providing value for their customers. We want Opsh to be just the same.
Describe the Opsh woman.
Opsh is for everyone – because, let’s face it, everyone shops on the High St (even Victoria Beckham isn’t averse to nipping into M&S to pick up a pair of emergency tights) – but we do have an ideal shopper in mind. She’s a busy, no-nonsense #GirlBoss with little time for spending hours online or tramping the streets hunting for clothes – so she shops on Opsh and gets all of her shopping with none of the hassle.
Opsh is more than a vehicle for shopping; it’s a brand, a lifestyle experience, how much priority do you place on creating that voice on social media, etc.? There’s a definite personality there.
We love, love, LOVE our brand voice. It really reflects how we want to be perceived as a company – positive, fashion-focused and collaborative rather than competitive. It took us a long time to nail down the ‘Opsh voice’ during the early stages of the business but, thanks to a few all-day meetings, plenty of Diet Coke and our fabulous in-house designer Fiona and amazing community and email guru Niamh, we’ve come up with an identity for Opsh and we couldn’t be prouder of it.
When you’re old and grey, and you’re looking back on your time with Opsh, what impact are you hoping it will have made, or how would you like for people to describe it?
In five years’ time, we’d like to be one of the top five shopping destinations for women. But in fifty-five years’ time, we’d like Opsh to be an origin story that every young woman knows by heart. If we’re successful, it’s because we’ve worked hard and grabbed every opportunity – and we’d like every young girl to know that they can do the same. You don’t need a rich parent or a degree from Oxford to follow your dreams. You just need patience, focus and an overwhelming heap of belief in yourself.